Pantheon in Rome – the temple of all the gods. Description, photos.

Pantheon in Rome

The Pantheon in Rome serves as a reminder of the power and strength of the once reigning empire. This temple was considered one of the monumental ones in the city: until the 7th century, pagans offered prayers here, afterwards – Christians. Now the Pantheon is on the list of Rome’s main attractions. It’s the only sanctuary in the world that has survived to this day in almost pristine condition.

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Video: Pantheon in Rome

History of the Pantheon

The initiative to erect the main temple of the Roman Empire belonged to the military leader Marcus Agrippa. The statesman launched a large-scale construction campaign after the defeat of Cleopatra and Antony’s fleet at the Battle of Axius in 31 BC. According to legend, the temple was built on the very spot from which one of the founders of Rome, Romulus, ascended to heaven.

Roman Pantheon in 1836

In addition to the temple, the complex included Agrippa’s Thermae and Neptune’s Basilica. Historians believe that both the Pantheon and the basilica were private property of the general and, unlike public temples, were closed to the general public.

It used to be believed that the Pantheon building had travelled a long way from the Roman times to the present day and still kept its original appearance. The reason for the misconception was a carved inscription that adorns the facade today. In Latin it means: “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, thrice elected consul, did this.” Archaeological excavations have refuted this theory: for example, the Pantheon building in Rome, with the exception of the facade, was completely destroyed and then reconstructed according to previous drawings.

Opposite the Pantheon in the Piazza Rotonda is a fountain from 1711 which uses an Egyptian obelisk found on the site of the temple of Isis.

Pliny the Elder described the temple of Agrippa in his work Natural History. Mention is made of Syracuse bronze column capitals, and the figure of Diogenes of Athens surrounded by caryatids, and statues of the gods, and Cleopatra’s pearl cut in half – a worthy decoration for Venus’ ears. The fire of 1980 took with it the grandeur of the Roman temple and the nearby buildings. The sanctuary was rebuilt by order of Domitian, but 30 years later the Pantheon suffered the same fate.

The reconstruction of the temple was undertaken by Hadrian, who was proclaimed ruler of the Roman Empire twice. Unfortunately, it is not known exactly how significant contribution to the restoration of the Pantheon was made by the architects of the emperor. Only the fact that Hadrian did not immortalize his name, recreating only the former “signature” of Marcus Agrippa is certain. Emperor Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla did not follow the example of their predecessor. Having partially reconstructed the Pantheon in 202, the Roman rulers marked this fact with an inscription on the temple’s architrave.

The Middle Ages were a turning point in the fate of the sanctuary. In 609, the Byzantine emperor entrusted the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV. In the same year, the temple was consecrated in honor of St. Mary and the Martyrs, thus making it Christian. Thanks to this ceremony, the Pantheon avoided the fate of being forgotten or destroyed by the opponents of paganism. During the Renaissance, the temple became the tomb for the famous personalities of the time.

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Unfortunately, the Roman Pantheon has lost many of its decorative elements. The place of the two carved columns was taken by medieval buildings. At the beginning of the 17th century, Urban VII removed the bronze decorations from the ceiling and erected two towers, disparagingly called “donkey ears” (they were demolished in the 19th century), on either side of the dome. The interior is largely intact, although not without restoration.

The Pantheon in Rome is now used as a Catholic church. Masses are held here on Sundays and holidays. Sometimes the dome of the temple becomes an unwitting witness to marriage ceremonies.

Roman Pantheon at night Tourists at the Roman Pantheon

Architecture of Pantheon

The main sanctuary of Rome is built as a rotunda and a portico leading to it.

Portico

In ancient times the pediment of the portico was decorated with an imposing sculpture – probably of gilded bronze. The position of the openings into which the statue was mounted gives clues as to its appearance. The sculpture was probably an imperial eagle with ribbons extending to the corners of the pediment.

On the walls behind the portico there are empty niches for the statues. Probably earlier sculptures of Marcus Agrippa, Octavian Augustus and Julius Caesar may have stood here. Alternatively, statues of the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Minerva, Juno) or other Roman gods may have been possible. The massive bronze doors leading to the interior of the temple did not originally belong to the Pantheon. They were installed around the 15th century.

The first images of the Roman Pantheon show a flight of stairs leading up to the entrance of the temple. Over time an embankment was formed near the building and the need for a separate staircase was no longer necessary.

Rotunda

The concrete and brick rotunda of the sanctuary is covered by a dome in the form of a hemisphere. Its lower tiers are made of a heavier material than the upper ones: the latter include pumice. Small chambers are designed inside to reduce the weight of the roof. Perhaps a similar role was assigned to the oculus, an opening in the center of the hemisphere with a diameter of 9 m. Here the mass of the vault is much less than at the base. Light penetrates into the temple through the oculus. The “Eye of the Pantheon” does not prevent rainfall, but thanks to the drainage system and a small angle of slope of the floor (about 30 °), rainwater gathers in special cavities.

Pantheon Eye rotunda against the roofs of Rome

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There is an amazing legend associated with the famous dome of the temple. Thus, its perfect outline and the sunlight penetrating the “hole” of the oculus inspired N. Copernicus to the final formulation of the heliocentric theory.

There are niches in the walls of the room, where the statues of the gods whose names corresponded to the 7 planets of antiquity: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon and Sun. By penetrating through the oculus, the sun’s rays fell on each of the sculptures in turn, thereby turning the Roman Pantheon into a kind of observatory.

The Roman temple still holds the record for the most monumental unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

Interior

The building is entered by a pronaos, a rectangular room located in the front part of the sanctuary. Above the entrance there is a semicircular hollow – a tympanum – bounded by a lintel and an arch. In ancient times the sculpture The Battle of the Gods and Titans was located here, but unfortunately, it was not preserved.

The temple welcomes tourists with a huge cylindrical room. On either side the Roman Pantheon splits into two naves (except for the central part of the room). There are no windows. The space is visually divided into three tiers (floors), smoothly tapering to the upper one. The surface of the dome is decorated with the caissons – sunken panels – forming five rows of 28 units. These decorative elements may have had a specific meaning: lunar, geometric or numerical.

As the Pantheon dome in Rome symbolized the firmament, the caissons could also have been used to hold ornaments such as bronze stars, so historians believe. In addition to their decorative role, these panels unload the overall composition, making the roof lighter both visually and technically.

The interior is dominated by geometric shapes: rectangles, squares and circles. They are mainly embodied in the marble floor of the Pantheon: “chess cells” alternate with (presumably) omphalias – purple circles. The latter are usually reserved for emperors and priests, but whether this was relevant to the Roman temple of all the gods is unknown.

Burials

In the walls of the sanctuary found their last resting place outstanding minds, rulers and even saints of Italy. The former include artists such as the violinist Arcangelo Corelli, the sculptor Flaminio Vacca, the architect Baldassare Peruzzi, the painters Giovanni da Udine, Taddeo Zuccaro, Annibale Carracci and Perino del Vaga. A special place is given to the sarcophagus of Raphael Santi, a saint, and his wife Maria Bibbiena.

The Pantheon in Rimestal is also the tomb of some august personalities. Here are buried King Victor Emmanuel II, his son Umberto I and his wife Margherita. Volunteers from the National Institute of Honorary Guard, founded in the second half of the 19th century, stand guard over the royal graves.

The Pantheon in numbers

There are many amazing facts associated with this sanctuary that strike the imagination of tourists:

  • There are two known periods of oblivion in the history of the Roman Pantheon: for 400 and 900 years. Everything that happened to the temple during this time is a mystery behind the seven seals. Perhaps the Pantheon was subjected to more extensive reconstructions, otherwise it would not have survived in such good condition.
  • The dome around the Pantheon Eye is 1.2 meters thick, although it seems much smaller when viewed from below.
  • The height of the room and the diameter of its vault are: 43,3 м. This gives the structure an amazing harmony.
  • After the reorganization of the pagan shrine into a Christian temple, Pope Boniface IV ordered the bones of the saints from the catacombs of Rome to be transported to the Pantheon. According to records, they barely fit into 28 wagons.
  • The portico is supported by 16 marble columns. Each weighs about 60 tons, is 1.5 m in diameter and almost 12 m high.
  • The walls of the building are 6 meters thick. Historians believe that the Pantheon in Rome could have been used as a defensive fortress during riots and rebellions of the Middle Ages.
  • In 609 the Pantheon became the first pagan temple to be consecrated according to Christian canons. From this arises more than one legitimate question. Who kept the statistics of the pagan sanctuaries in ancient times? How has it survived to this day? What were the other temples like?
  • The obelisk of Ramses II in front of the Pantheon is not the only one in the city. A total of 13 Egyptian obelisks are placed in Rome, testifying to the Pope’s unusual love for the subject of the Land of the Pharaohs.
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Roman Pantheon attracts not only the history and architecture. Looking at the majestic construction, more than 2 thousand years old, you cannot help but feel respect for the architects of those times who created the main masterpiece of Rome.

Practical information

The Pantheon in Rome is open to the public from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 19:30 and on Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00. On public holidays the temple closes at 13:00; it is closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25. Visiting the Pantheon is free, so everyone can admire the magnificent monument of Roman architecture. The temple is definitely worth seeing.

How to get there

The Piazza della Rotonda adorns the Piazza della Rotonda with its majestic image of the Roman Pantheon. Take public transportation to reach it:

Roman Pantheon

The Pantheon is an architectural and historical monument of antiquity, one of the significant landmarks of Rome. It was conceived as a temple to all the ancient Roman gods, but after the fall of the Roman Empire it was rededicated as the Catholic temple of St. Mary and the Martyrs.

The mysterious history of the Pantheon

The Pantheon is the most mysterious of all the structures of ancient Rome. When, how, and by whom it was built is not exactly known. The temple is believed to have been completed in 27 B.C. under the patronage of the Roman statesman Marco Vipsanio Agrippa. After several fires the Pantheon was badly damaged and in 124 AD under Emperor Hadrian it was rebuilt and acquired its present appearance.

Although the new temple was very different from the original building, Emperor Hadrian wanted to pay tribute to Agrippa and left an original inscription with bronze letters on the facade of the building:

Pantheon - what the inscription means

“M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIVM.FECIT” Latin inscription literally translates as “Marco Agrippa, son of Lucius, built during his third consulship.”

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After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Pantheon was abandoned for several centuries and only in 608 did the Byzantine emperor Phocas give it to Pope Boniface IV, who dedicated the ancient structure to Saint Mary and all the Martyrs. During the Unification of Italy (1871-1894) the Pantheon served as a fortress for the kings.

There is another theory, according to which the Pantheon was built in the Middle Ages. Proponents of this version dispute the almost 2000-year age of the temple, because the ancient structure has perfectly preserved to this day, but it was built of bricks and concrete, the service life of which is much shorter.

Legends

The Pantheon is shrouded in amazing stories and legends. One legend says that the structure was built on the spot from which the legendary Romulus, the founder of Rome, ascended to heaven. Another legend says that the oculus, the hole in the dome, was created by the devil escaping from God’s temple. Another legend reports that Cybele, the ancient Greek divinity revered as the Great Mother of the gods, appeared in a dream to Agrippa to ask for a temple to be built.

The Pantheon is Rome’s architectural masterpiece

The Roman Pantheon is a revolutionary building in ancient Roman architecture. Its peculiarity lies in its ideal proportions: the inner diameter of the dome corresponds to the height of the temple, and as a result, the structure has a spherical shape. The creator of the Pantheon is considered to be the Syrian architect and engineer Apollodorus of Damascus.

The ancient temple consists of a large rotunda covered by a hemispherical dome and 16 Corinthian columns supporting the pediment. As before, most of the building is clad in marble, but over the years the Pantheon has been touched from the outside and brickwork can be seen in some places.

As the best-preserved example of Roman monumental architecture, the Pantheon has had an enormous influence on Western architecture. Many famous buildings have been built that reflect the structure of the Pantheon with its portico and dome: the Church of San Carlo al Corso in Milan, the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola in Naples, the Church of Gran Madre di Dio in Turin, Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, the Victoria State Library in Melbourne, and others.

Pantheon in Rome at night

Pantheon Dome.

Today, the Roman Pantheon’s hemispherical dome, 43 meters in diameter, is the world’s largest dome built of concrete without rebar. For its construction the architects used a very light mortar, but still the dome turned out very heavy. To hold such a huge hemisphere it was necessary to increase the thickness of the walls to 6 meters.

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Pantheon dome in Rome

In the center of the dome there is an oculus – a circular hole 9 meters in diameter, the so-called eye of the Pantheon. Air and light get inside the temple only through this hole, as there are no windows in the building. When it rains, water gets into the oculus, so there are special drainage channels in the floor to collect the water.

Oculus - a hole in the Pantheon dome

What’s inside

The interior of the Pantheon is just as magnificent as the outside, although many statues and gilded bronze ornaments have disappeared over the centuries. Since the 15th century the temple began to be enriched with frescoes. The most famous of these is “The Annunciation” by Melozzo da Forli.

Fresco of Pantheon

The temple has seven niches, placed in paired columns, which originally served to worship the deities associated with the cult of the planets: the Sun, Moon, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars. When the Pantheon was consecrated as a Christian basilica, these niches were used to install altars and tombs of famous people.

Pantheon inside

Burials in the Pantheon

Since the Renaissance, the Pantheon, like all churches, has been the burial place of notable people. Priests, famous cultural figures, and even kings such as Umberto I and Emmanuel II have rested here. The tomb of painter Raphael Santi occupies a special place.

Useful Useful Information

Address: Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

The Pantheon is situated in the center of the city, close to all the tourist infrastructure of the Italian capital: various cafes, restaurants, stores, sightseeing offices, attractions and hotels of Rome.

In the square in front of the Pantheon there is another attraction – an Egyptian obelisk, made in ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II at the end of XIII century BC. By order of Pope Clement XI the obelisk was placed in the pre-existing fountain in front of the Pantheon in 1711.

Pantheon in Rome - an Egyptian obelisk

How to get there

The closest metro station Cavour is 2 km from the Pantheon and it is more convenient to get there by bus.

Take the bus Take one of the following bus stops:

  • Rinascimento – number 30, 70, 81, 87;
  • Argentina – #30, 40, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 87;
  • Corso/Minghetti – nos. 62, 63, 83, 85.

Hours of work

  • Monday through Saturday – 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m;
  • Sunday – from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m;
  • public holidays – from 9:00 to 13:00.

Weekends: December 25, January 1 and May 1.

Admission to the Pantheon is free .

Among other free attractions in Rome, it is also worth noting the Vittoriano Memorial Complex in Piazza Venezia, built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy. There are museums and an observation deck on its grounds.

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